Differences between Reza Pahlavi and Ayatollah Khomeini in Education

Reza Pahlavi and Ayatollah Khomeini had vastly different educational experiences and beliefs. Reza Pahlavi was educated in the West and valued traditional educational systems, while Ayatollah Khomeini was educated in traditional Islamic schools and promoted religious education.

Reza Pahlavi received his primary and secondary education in Switzerland, and later attended military training in the United States. He also studied law and political science at the University of Southern California. Pahlavi believed in the importance of traditional educational systems and was critical of the Iranian education system under Ayatollah Khomeini’s regime.

Ayatollah Khomeini, on the other hand, was educated in traditional Islamic schools, or madrasas, in Iran and Iraq. He was a renowned scholar of Islamic jurisprudence and believed in the importance of religious education. Khomeini’s regime placed a heavy emphasis on Islamic education, with the goal of creating a generation of devout Muslims.

These differing educational experiences and beliefs had a significant impact on the two leaders’ attitudes towards education policy. Pahlavi’s focus on modernizing the education system and his emphasis on science and technology led to the establishment of new universities and technical schools. In contrast, Khomeini’s regime focused on the creation of Islamic schools and the promotion of religious education.

Overall, Reza Pahlavi and Ayatollah Khomeini had vastly different approaches to education, reflecting their cultural backgrounds and values. These differences continue to shape education policy in Iran today.



Iran has a rich history that has been shaped by its rulers over the centuries. During the early years of the 20th century, Iran was ruled by the Pahlavi dynasty. Reza Pahlavi, who became the shah of Iran in 1925, was a modernist who sought to westernize Iran and bring it into the modern era.

Ayatollah Khomeini, on the other hand, was a religious leader who believed in the strict application of Islamic law and the rejection of western influence. After the Iranian Revolution of 1979, Khomeini became the supreme leader of Iran and set the country on the path of Islamic fundamentalism.

Comparison of Reza Pahlavi and Ayatollah Khomeini in the education sector

Comparison of Reza Pahlavi and Ayatollah Khomeini in the education sector

The education sector in Iran underwent significant changes during the reign of Reza Pahlavi. He introduced western-style education, modernized the curriculum and established new schools, universities, and technical institutes. He was determined to create a literate and educated population that would be able to compete with the rest of the world.

However, this approach didn’t go down well with the conservative religious leaders who believed that the westernization of Iran was a threat to Islam. Khomeini, who was in exile in France during most of Pahlavi’s reign, was a vocal critic of the shah’s policies and called for a return to traditional Islamic education.

After the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini set about reforming the education system along Islamic lines. He abolished co-education and imposed dress codes for teachers and students. The curriculum was reviewed and the study of English was reduced. The focus shifted from science and technology to Islamic studies.

In addition, Khomeini emphasized the importance of religious education and established Islamic seminaries to educate scholars in the principles of Islam and Islamic law. He also called for the establishment of Islamic universities that would provide education in a range of subjects while upholding Islamic values.

The changes brought about by Khomeini were significant and had a profound impact on Iranian society. While the focus on Islamic education helped to create a more religiously aware population, it also led to a decline in scientific and technological progress. Many Iranians, especially those who were educated during the reign of Reza Pahlavi, felt that the education system had been hijacked for political objectives.

The education policies of Reza Pahlavi and Ayatollah Khomeini couldn’t have been more different. While Pahlavi sought to modernize the education system and create a literate and educated population, Khomeini was more concerned with preserving Islamic values and opposing western influence. The two leaders represented different visions for Iran’s future and their policies had far-reaching consequences for the country and its people.

Today, Iran continues to grapple with the legacy of these two leaders. While there have been efforts to modernize the education system and revive the study of science and technology, the emphasis on Islamic education remains strong. The debate over which approach is best for Iran’s future continues.


Reza Pahlavi and Ayatollah Khomeini educational background

Reza Pahlavi, also known as Reza Shah II, was born on October 31, 1960, in Tehran, Iran. He is the son of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran. After his father’s regime was overthrown during the Iranian Revolution, the Pahlavi family went into exiled in Egypt and then to the United States. Reza Pahlavi attended schools in Tehran and the United States, obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in political science in 1981 from the University of Southern California. Later, in 1991, he earned a Master’s degree in international relations from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was born on September 24, 1902, in Khomeyn, Iran. He was an Islamic scholar and a politician who became the leader of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran and the country’s first Supreme Leader, a position he held until his death in 1989. Ayatollah Khomeini attended traditional Islamic schools in Iran and Najaf, Iraq, where he studied Islamic jurisprudence, philosophy, and politics. Despite not having a formal university education, Ayatollah Khomeini was a prolific writer and thinker, and his works have been translated into many languages.

While both Reza Pahlavi and Ayatollah Khomeini were born in Iran, their educational backgrounds vastly differ. Reza Pahlavi pursued his education in the United States and obtained a Western-style university education. In contrast, Ayatollah Khomeini received his education from traditional Islamic institutions in Iran and Iraq and did not have a formal university education.

Reza Pahlavi’s Emphasis on Modernization and Westernization in Education

modernization and westernization in education

Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran, implemented policies that aimed to modernize and Westernize the country’s education system. His vision was to bring Iran into the 20th century and make it a progressive and forward-thinking nation. He believed that education was the cornerstone of development and that a modern, secular education system was essential to the growth and prosperity of the nation.

Some of the key educational policies implemented by Reza Pahlavi included:

  1. Expansion of Educational Opportunities: Under Reza Pahlavi’s rule, the number of schools, colleges, and universities increased significantly. The Shah wanted to provide education to all Iranians, regardless of their social status, gender, or religion. He saw education as a means of social mobility and wanted to give individuals the chance to realize their full potential through knowledge.
  2. Modernization of the Curriculum: In order to modernize the education system, Reza Pahlavi introduced new subjects such as science and technology, economics, and management. He believed that teaching these subjects would equip students with the skills and knowledge they needed to succeed in a rapidly changing world. The modernization of the curriculum also meant the introduction of the English language, which became mandatory for all students from the 6th grade onwards.
  3. Emphasis on Secular Education: Another significant change made by Reza Pahlavi was the separation of religion from the education system. He believed in a secular education system that would allow students to think independently and develop critical thinking skills. This policy led to the removal of religious studies from the curriculum and the closure of many Islamic seminaries.
  4. Introduction of Co-Education: Reza Pahlavi was a strong advocate of co-education, the practice of educating male and female students together in the same school or classroom. This was a radical departure from traditional Iranian norms, which emphasized segregation of the sexes in educational settings. The Shah believed that co-education would promote gender equality and help modernize the country.

Overall, Reza Pahlavi’s educational policies were aimed at modernizing the education system, making it more inclusive, and preparing Iranian students for the challenges of the 20th century. Despite criticism from conservative factions in Iranian society, the Shah’s policies had a significant impact on education in Iran and set the stage for future developments in the field.

Ayatollah Khomeini’s Approach to Education

Ayatollah Khomeini's Approach to Education

Ayatollah Khomeini had a strong emphasis on traditional Islamic education that focused on religious studies and the Quran. He believed that education should be based on the teachings of Islam and that secular education should only supplement and not replace religious education. He also believed that the education system should be disconnected from Western influence to preserve Iran’s Islamic identity.

Khomeini’s educational policies aimed to create an Islamic society that was knowledgeable about their religion and that would be able to resist Western influence. He encouraged the establishment of religious schools called madrasas, which were tasked with teaching Islamic law and theology. Khomeini believed that Islam should be infused into every aspect of society, including education, and that the only way for Iran to prosper was for its citizens to be grounded in Islamic teachings.

One of Khomeini’s notable educational policies was the emphasis on the education of women. He believed that educating women was one of the most important duties of society as they would be responsible for shaping the future of their families and the nation. Khomeini encouraged the education of girls and established guidelines to ensure that women could receive an Islamic education. This was a significant departure from the previous Iranian regime, which had severely restricted women’s access to education and employment.

Reza Pahlavi’s Approach to Education

Reza Pahlavi's Approach to Education

Reza Pahlavi had a very different approach to education. He sought to modernize Iran by borrowing from Western educational models and emphasizing secular education. Pahlavi believed that modernization was the key to Iran’s success and that secular education was necessary to achieve this objective.

During his reign, Pahlavi introduced comprehensive educational reforms that aimed to establish a national educational system based on secular principles. His educational policies reflected his desire to modernize Iran and bring it closer to the West. He established institutions of higher education and encouraged Iranian students to study abroad, particularly in the United States, to gain exposure to Western education and learn more about its values and practices.

One of Pahlavi’s educational policies was the establishment of a national literacy campaign. The campaign aimed to eradicate illiteracy in Iran by providing basic education to everyone, regardless of gender or social status. The Pahlavi regime believed that literacy was essential for modernization, and that an educated population would be more able to make informed decisions and contribute to the development of the country.

Pahlavi’s approach to education helped to improve the literacy rate in Iran, and his efforts to modernize education served as a precursor to the rapid development of higher education institutions and the establishment of new universities in the country during the latter half of the 20th Century.


Ayatollah Khomeini And Reza Pahlavi

The educational policies and approaches of Ayatollah Khomeini and Reza Pahlavi were vastly different. Khomeini’s emphasis on traditional Islamic education, while Pahlavi’s focus on modernization and secular education are indicative of the differences in their governing philosophies. Both leaders sought to improve education in Iran but had fundamentally different approaches to achieve this objective, reflecting wider societal and political differences in Iran during the 20th century.

Reza Pahlavi’s Education Reforms

Reza Pahlavi Educational Reforms

Reza Pahlavi’s reign as the last Shah of Iran was marked with significant efforts to modernize and improve the country’s educational system. One of the most prominent reforms he implemented was the creation of a comprehensive six-year plan aimed at increasing access to education throughout Iran.

Pahlavi’s six-year plan was a significant undertaking that involved opening new schools, renovating existing ones, and increasing the number of teachers in Iran. His government also expanded access to higher education by creating new universities and colleges.

Prior to the implementation of these reforms, education in Iran was largely limited to the wealthy elite, and access to education was severely restricted for the majority of the population. Pahlavi’s educational reforms helped to break down these barriers to create a more equal and accessible system for all Iranians.

Another major component of Pahlavi’s educational reforms was the allocation of increased funding for education. Under his leadership, the Iranian government allocated a larger share of the national budget towards education than ever before. This funding was used to support new schools, improve existing ones, and hire more teachers.

Pahlavi’s efforts to improve and modernize the educational system also included introducing new curriculums, textbooks, and teaching methods. His government implemented changes aimed at creating a more modern and globally-oriented educational system that would better prepare Iranian students for success in the modern world.

Pahlavi’s educational reforms were undoubtedly successful in many respects, as evidenced by the significant improvements made to Iran’s educational system during his reign. However, some have criticized his efforts as being too focused on western-style education and neglecting traditional Islamic values.

Despite these criticisms, Pahlavi’s educational reforms were a significant step forward for Iran and laid the groundwork for many of the educational improvements made in the following decades.

Ayatollah Khomeini’s Education Reforms

Ayatollah Khomeini's Education Reforms

Ayatollah Khomeini is considered as one of Iran’s most influential figures in modern history. One of his significant contributions to the country was his efforts to reform the education system. Before his revolution, Iran’s education system was mostly secular. However, Ayatollah Khomeini believed that the education system needed to be fundamentally transformed to incorporate Islamic principles and traditions.

During his leadership, Ayatollah Khomeini implemented significant reforms in the education system. He created new Islamic institutions and modified existing ones to align with the Islamic principles. The Islamic schools, known as Madrassas, were revamped to include Islamic practices such as prayer, memorization of the Quran, and Islamic studies. The idea was to produce students who were not only knowledgeable in their subjects but also dedicated to Islamic beliefs and values.

One of Ayatollah Khomeini’s most prominent educational reforms was to create the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution. Its primary purpose was to oversee the Islamic transformation of the education system. The council reviewed and approved new textbooks and curriculum aligned with Islamic values, phased out Western courses in universities, and removed Western influences from the education system. The council aimed to create a new generation of Iranians who were firmly grounded in Islamic teachings.

Ayatollah Khomeini’s educational reform aimed to bridge the gap between traditional Islamic teachings and modern education. He genuinely believed that incorporating Islamic principles in the education system would nurture a new generation of Muslims who would be dedicated and committed to their religion. According to him, education was a critical tool for shaping the future of Iran and preserving its Islamic identity.

Ayatollah Khomeini’s education reform faced some criticism from some sections of Iranian society. Some critics believed that the new educational system was too rigid and focused too much on Islamic teachings, undermining other essential subjects such as science and mathematics. However, Ayatollah Khomeini’s supporters argued that the new education system provided students with a more profound understanding of Islamic teachings, which helped them appreciate Islam and their historical and cultural heritage.

In conclusion, Ayatollah Khomeini’s education reforms were aimed at creating a new generation of Iranians who aligned with Islamic principles, traditions, and values. While his efforts faced some criticism, his followers believe that his reforms helped preserve Iran’s Islamic identity and history, which is still reflected in Iran’s education system to this day.

Comparison of the Two Approaches

Comparison of the Two Approaches

Reza Pahlavi and Ayatollah Khomeini had vastly different approaches to education during their respective reigns. While Pahlavi was focused on creating a modern, secular education system that emphasized science and technology, Khomeini’s approach to education centered on religious teachings and traditional Islamic values.

Under Pahlavi’s rule, the Iranian education system underwent a significant overhaul. Pahlavi’s primary goal was to modernize the education system and create a workforce that would be equipped for the challenges of an industrialized economy. His reforms included increasing access to education, building new schools and universities, and emphasizing STEM fields such as engineering, medicine, and science.

One of his most significant educational programs was the White Revolution, which aimed to improve the Iranian education system substantially. The program provided free education for all, introduced a mandatory education policy, and also established thousands of new schools throughout the country. These reforms brought a significant shift in Iran’s education system, with more women getting access to education and becoming part of the workforce.

Ayatollah Khomeini, on the other hand, saw education as a tool to promote Islamic ideology and traditional values. His approach emphasized religious studies and Islamic teachings. He enforced strict dress codes in schools, and Islamic studies were made compulsory in the curriculum; Sharia law was also introduced as a mandatory course at the university level. Khomeini’s goal was to create a generation of pious and devout Muslims dedicated to the Islamic Revolution’s ideals.

During his reign, Khomeini’s approach to education led to a significant decline in the quality of education in Iran. The emphasis on religious studies left little room for scientific or intellectual pursuits, leading to a lack of skilled labor and professionals in the country. This lack of education and skills ultimately led to Iran’s economic downfall, with the country struggling to compete in the global economy.

Overall, Reza Pahlavi and Ayatollah Khomeini had vastly different approaches to education. Pahlavi’s focus on modernizing the education system and promoting STEM fields contributed to Iran’s economic development. Khomeini’s emphasis on religious teachings, while attempting to create a religiously devout generation, stifled intellectual development and contributed to Iran’s economic decline.

Different Approaches to Education: Reza Pahlavi vs Ayatollah Khomeini

Reza Pahlavi and Ayatollah Khomeini education policies

The education policies of Reza Pahlavi and Ayatollah Khomeini varied greatly in their approaches. Reza Pahlavi, who was the Shah of Iran from 1967 to 1979, prioritized modernizing and secularizing the education sector to align with Western standards. On the other hand, Ayatollah Khomeini, who led the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and became the country’s Supreme Leader, placed a strong emphasis on Islamic education to counter the influence of Westernization. These differing approaches had lasting impacts on the education sector in Iran.

Focus on Science and Technology

Reza Pahlavi science and technology

During his reign, Reza Pahlavi placed a strong emphasis on science and technology and invested heavily in modernizing the education sector in these areas. He established new universities and expanded existing ones, while also introducing reforms to clarify the role of education in Iran’s development. Science and technology education were given high priority, and resources were allocated to research and development in these areas. This emphasis on modernization and innovation had a significant impact on the country’s industrialization and growth.

Emphasis on Islamic Education

Ayatollah Khomeini islamic education

Ayatollah Khomeini’s education policies were driven by a desire to counteract the perceived Westernization and secularization of Iran. He placed a strong emphasis on Islamic education, which was seen as a way to instill traditional values and morality in the country’s youth. Islamic schools and universities were established, and religious studies were made compulsory in schools. The religious curriculum focused on teaching the Qur’an and Islamic values, and students were taught to see the world through an Islamic lens.

Growth of Private Education

private education

One of the lasting impacts of Reza Pahlavi’s education policies was the growth of private education in Iran. Private institutions were encouraged to establish themselves, and many wealthy families invested in education for their children. However, this growth ultimately resulted in significant disparities in the quality of education available to people of different economic backgrounds, leading to criticism of the government’s policies. Additionally, the focus on Islamic education under Ayatollah Khomeini’s policies led to a decline in the availability and quality of secular education in Iran.

Complete Control of the Education Sector

iranian revolution

Under Ayatollah Khomeini’s regime, the government had complete control over the education sector. The Supreme Leader used education as a means of promoting his revolutionary ideologies and instilling loyalty to the government in students. The focus on Islamic education was part of a broader effort to create an Islamic republic that was vastly different from the secular, Western-oriented society of the Shah’s regime. This level of control, though effective in achieving the regime’s goals, stifled academic freedom and creativity in the education sector.

Lessons for the Future

iranian students

Looking back at the differing education policies of Reza Pahlavi and Ayatollah Khomeini, there are lessons to be learned for the future. The emphasis on science and technology education was a positive development under Reza Pahlavi’s regime, but the accompanying growth of private education resulted in disparities and criticisms of the government’s policies. Similarly, Ayatollah Khomeini’s strong emphasis on Islamic education resulted in a decline in the quality of secular education and stifled creativity in the education sector. Finding a balance between progress and traditional values is key to achieving a society that is both prosperous and inclusive.


In conclusion, the education policies of Reza Pahlavi and Ayatollah Khomeini differed greatly in their approaches to modernization and traditional values. Reza Pahlavi’s emphasis on science and technology education increased the country’s industrialization, while Ayatollah Khomeini’s focus on Islamic education aimed to instill traditional values in the country’s youth. However, the growth of private education under Reza Pahlavi’s policies and the complete control over the education sector under Ayatollah Khomeini’s regime resulted in disparities and limitations in the education sector. Ultimately, finding a balance between progress and traditional values is crucial for the future of education in Iran.

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